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What Are The Notable Parks, Beaches Or Wild Areas In The Scottish Lowlands?
The beaches and parks you will find in the Central Belt and Southern Upland areas of the country are more likely to be well-attended and carefully looked after than the wilder, more deserted areas in the Highlands.
However, there is no shortage of wilderness to investigate in the Lowlands. Here you will also be able to find lochs, rivers, hills, valleys and glens, allied to better access to all modern conveniences and better mobile reception. The Central Belt of Scotland, while the most populated part of the country by far, is still a very picturesque place. You’ll find it ideal for a week’s countryside getaway, a modern weekend city break, or both.
Six Things For You And Your Dog To Do In The Scottish Borders
Visit Castle Kennedy Gardens
Set with the backdrop of the ruins of Castle Kennedy, Castle Kennedy Gardens are some of the most impressive and varied landscape gardens in Scotland, located between the White Loch and Black Loch just east of Stranraer. First established in 1730 by the Earl of Stair, the site now offers a selection of graded walks and different habitats to explore. Dogs are welcome throughout the site, although may need to be on a lead in designated places.
Spend the day in Gretna Green
The legendary status of Gretna Green as a place for couples to elope and get married stems back from the 18th Century, where English law stated couples under the age of 21 had to have their parents’ permission and the union had to be made at a church service. Scotland had no such stringent laws, and the border town of Gretna Green – a few miles north of Carlisle – became a hotbed of young couples escaping disapproving families in order to tie the knot. Be sure to pay a visit to the local blacksmiths shop, where many of these marriages were performed. Dogs, whether unmarried or not, are welcome.
Visit Melrose Abbey
The partly-ruined abbey at Melrose has stood since the 12th Century and has seen its fair share of Scottish history played out in and around its walls. Legend has it that the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce was buried there, as well as being the final resting place for several Scottish kings and queens. For the more energetic and intrepid dogs and owners, you can visit it as part of the 68 mile Borders Abbey Way walking trail.
Visit Culzean Castle
A genuinely impressive castle building – still fit and available for habitation for those of you with a taste for enormous luxury – on the banks of the Firth of Clyde. It was used as the location for Lord Summerisle’s home in the classic 1972 film The Wicker Man, while in real life Dwight D. Eisenhower also stayed at Culzean both before and during his term as President of the United States. It is also rumoured that there are at least seven different ghosts who haunt the property and grounds.
Visit the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum
Located just outside of Ayr in the village of Alloway, this National Trust-administered property celebrates the life of Scotland’s most famous poet and cultural hero. Comprising both the actual cottage in which Burns was born as well as an impressive series of exhibits – including artefacts and original handwritten manuscripts – it’s a great way to get to know perhaps the most beloved of all of Scotland’s sons. Dogs are welcome to join you, provided they are on a lead.
Visit Paxton House
Sitting on the banks of the River Tweed, which forms a natural border between Scotland and England, the Georgian-style Paxton House offers antiques, landscaped gardens, family activities, exhibitions and a variety of different walks to suit every member of the family, including those with four legs.
Six Things For You And Your Dog To Do In The Central Belt
Experience Camera Obscura, Edinburgh
Located at the Outlook Tower in the city’s Royal Mile, Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is a six-storey building filled with interactive attractions and optical illusions, including light shows, kaleidoscopes, holograms, mirror mazes and vortex tunnels. It is Edinburgh’s oldest purpose-built tourist attraction and dogs remain welcome to share the experience.
Dinner and a movie at Ashton Lane, Glasgow
Sometimes a bit of rest and relaxation is just what you need. Ashton Lane has a variety of pup-friendly bars and restaurants to try, but even better is that its fully-licenced cinema regularly offers pet-friendly showings of films. If you’re a dog lover and you’ve never experienced one of these, they are well worth it.
Tour Edinburgh by bus
Edinburgh has such rich history and heritage that perhaps the best way to take it all in is via a bus tour. Dogs are welcome to hop along for the ride and should of course keep an eye out for Greyfriars Kirk, home of one of the UK’s most legendary and loyal pets, Greyfriars Bobby.
Taste the produce at Fyne Ales, Cairndow
Set deep within the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park on the edge of the Scottish Highlands, the Fyne Ales brewery has plenty on offer for visitors of two or four legs.
Visit Inveraray Jail Museum
Based on the site of a restored Victorian-era prison in Argyll and Bute, since 1989 Inveraray Jail has served as a living museum, recreating life as it was for prison inmates during the period. Dogs are welcome throughout and can enter the museum free of charge.
Take a Firth of Forth Sea Trip
For many dogs, a day out on a boat is a real treat and here you can combine it with an extremely pleasurable sail down the Forth River. There are a number of organised sightseeing cruises to choose from, including a tour of the river bridges. Head for South Queensferry to book your trip.
Six Walks For You And Your Dog To Enjoy In The Scottish Borders
Galloway Forest Park
Your dog will have the time of its life at Galloway Forest Park, no matter what sort of habitat they like to explore. Galloway is the UK’s largest forest, but also offers glens and hills, as well as rock-climbing and rich, varied wildlife. It describes itself as “the Highlands of the Lowlands”.
The Hawick Circular
Set around the picturesque town of Hawick, the Hawick Circular Trails are a variety of different signposted walking routes – suitable for all ages and abilities, including wheelchair users or people with prams – that will allow all the family to explore the best of the countryside the Scottish Uplands has to offer.
Saint Mary’s Loch Circular
Proving you don’t need to travel all the way to the Highlands to enjoy a walk around a genuine Scottish loch, Saint Mary’s Loch is the largest loch in the Scottish borders, located between the towns of Moffat and Selkirk, just over 70 miles to the south of Edinburgh.
An unspoilt, clean and beautiful sandy beach at Irvine, just to the north of Ayr on the Firth of Clyde coast. It’s an ideal location for a day out at the seaside, with nearby road and rail links, plus picnic sites, toilet areas and the town of Irvine itself close by.
Another richly wooded area that has been turned into an exceptional outdoor activities facility. Just outside the town of Peebles, Glentress offers a variety of different walking trails, wildlife areas and both horse and mountain bike riding opportunities.
This one is a bit of a cheat, as the bulk of Hadrian’s Wall – the frontier border built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to keep the marauding Scots at bay – now stands in modern-day England, a few miles to the south of the current border line. However, it is well worth a visit at any of the varied points along the way that are still standing, being one of the 26 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the UK.
Six Walks For You And Your Dog To Enjoy In The Central Belt
Glasgow City Centre Mural Trail
Glasgow is home to some of the most extraordinary outdoor art murals in the UK, scattered all round the city centre and depicting a variety of scenes from nature, history or local culture. The complete trip will be up to three hours in duration, or you can get a map of the locations of the murals and arrange your own itinerary. If this sort of thing is very much up your street, there is a similar trail of the town statues in Dundee – a must for fans of The Beano and The Dandy comics.
The sandy beach at the fishing village at Cramond is a favourite with tourists and locals alike. Set in peaceful, rolling countryside surroundings you’ll hardly believe you’re just minutes from Edinburgh city centre.
A vast Victorian-style 100 acre park at the centre of Glasgow, there is something here for every dog and every owner. Kelvingrove is also home to exceptional museums and art galleries, although sadly only assistance dogs are allowed inside.
Lomond Hills Regional Park
65 square kilometres of rolling moorland and stark, spectacular rock formations just to the east of Loch Leven near the town of Glenrothes. Some genuine Scottish wilderness, located less than an hour from major towns like Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy or Methil.
River Tay Estuary
If your dog prefers splashing about to nosing around in the countryside, the River Tay Estuary at Dundee could be their ideal spot. Well over a mile wide, it is one of the largest estuary areas in Scotland and offers great views across the Tay as well as varied wildlife sanctuaries.
One of the most talked about walking trails in the UK, the walk from Holyrood Park to the top of Edinburgh’s volcano has gained notoriety from the annual efforts of the great and the good of the British cultural scene to climb it during the Edinburgh Festival. It is rather steep and challenging in parts but well worth the effort, offering unrivalled views across the city at the peak.
Where To Stay In The Scottish Borders
Exactly where you want to base yourself for your stay is obviously dependent on exactly what activities you and your dog plan to get up to. However, here are some suggestions.
A large market town less than 30 minutes away from England by car, Dumfries offers all modern conveniences while also being a great base for those keen to visit the Galloway Forest Park, Castle Douglas, Gretna Green or any of the Irish sea coastline.
Sitting at the bottom of the Galloway Forest, Newton Stewart will also put visitors within easy reach of miles of coastline, as well as popular towns such as Stranraer or Castle Douglas.
One of the largest towns in southern Scotland, Ayr is a seaside resort with an awful lot going for it. It is within easy reach of the Robert Burns Museum and Irvine Beach, while the Isle of Arran stands just the other side of the Firth of Clyde. It would also be a good choice for anyone wanting to explore Scotland’s larger towns and cities, being less than an hour from Glasgow by car or train.
Frequently cited as one of the most beautiful towns in the UK, Peebles is about an hour’s journey south of Edinburgh. It’s an ideal starting point for a holiday seeking out all the best the east of Scottish Borders has to offer, set in miles of glorious countryside with some of the area’s biggest lochs to the south and the Pentland Hills Regional Park to the north.
A town near the English border, about 30 minutes drive north from Dumfries, Moffat is an area steeped in history and surrounded by both things to do and stunning Uplands countryside.
A village in the southeastern corner of Scotland, a few miles from the English border and the River Tweed, Duns is set in wonderfully scenic and deserted Scottish countryside. An area famous for its livestock farming, it is also a great place to search out some of the best holiday cottages in the Scottish Borders.
Where To Stay In The Central Belt
One of the most exciting and vibrant cities in Europe, Glasgow sits on the banks of the River Clyde and is absolutely packed with things to see and do. There will almost certainly always be something going on and somewhere new for you and your four-legged friend to investigate, from museums and culture to walks in the Botanical Gardens, Necropolis or Kelvingrove Park. If that alone isn’t enough, Edinburgh is just over an hour away by train, car or bus.
We’ve got a bigger guide to dog friendly Glasgow if you want to pay a visit to this wonderful city.
Built into the side of the extinct Arthur’s Seat volcano and on the banks of the River Forth, Edinburgh is one of the most treasured and historical cities in the world – whole sections of both the old and new towns are protected as UNESCO World Heritage sites. As well as providing a variety of natural landscapes and man-made attractions for you and your dog to explore, it is home every August to the world-famous Edinburgh Festival. As you might expect, the city is enormously busy during that time and places to stay are at a premium.
If you and your dog want to pay a visit to Edinburgh, make sure to check out our dog friendly Edinburgh guide for more ideas!
A city on the banks of the silvery Tay River, so immortalised by the legendarily bad Scottish poet William McGonagall’s 1880 work The Tay Bridge Disaster, Dundee sits as a gatekeeper between the populated towns of the central belt and the wilds of the Scottish Highlands and Cairngorms National Park about 50 miles to its north. A wilder, more windswept but no less exciting choice for those wanting a city break.
Looking to explore Dundee? We have a dog friendly Dundee guide which we think would help!
A beautiful medieval town built on top of an old volcanic rock and overlooked by the ruins of Stirling Castle. It is one of the most treasured and historical areas of Scotland, with the sites of the Battle of Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn – where William Wallace famously defeated the English army in the 13th Century – both nearby. Stirling offers easy access to all of Scotland’s most famous and exciting towns and cities, as well as being less than 20 miles away from Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Scotland’s most southerly National Park.
Yet another picturesque and historic town – Scone, the place of coronation for the kings and queens of Scotland, stands just to its east – Perth sits on the Tay River and is surrounded by spectacular, richly forested, countryside. It’s an ideal base for dogs and dog owners who are keen to get into the great outdoors and explore: the Lomond Hills Country Park is just a few miles to its south and the great expanse of the Cairngorms National Park begins less than thirty miles to its north.
Those wanting a trip to the Central Belt without a city break could do worse than to consider basing themselves in Largs. A popular seaside resort with a pier about 30 miles to the west of Glasgow, Largs is also set within the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park. Whatever landscape your dog likes to play around in and discover is bound to be available in spades. The Firth of Clyde coastline is to the south, while ferries to Rothesay Island set sail just to the north.